The North-East India and the Himalayas have always been on my bucket list for as long as I remember. But this trip of a lifetime can never be planned and executed perfectly by us, I realized. Almost always because of the complicated permit requirements and limited knowledge about the challenges that the terrain can present, we tend to look for outside help.
With a constraint of 10-11 days and a place full of beautiful things waiting to be discovered, finding a perfect itinerary becomes important. Keeping my agenda of a digital detox with treks and nature walks, Blueberry trails designed the perfect itinerary for me with stays at cozy little home stays and a bunch of cool experiences.
Destinations 1- Takdah, West Bengal
Takdah means “mist” in the Lepcha (the original residents of this area) language. It used to be a cantonment town during the British days and still bears a beautiful colonial charm. Even today one can admire the stone structures built by the British. It is surrounded by large stretches of pine forests and tea gardens, which lend the place a very special charm.
Accommodation: Glenmarie HomeStay
Things to do : You can start off early morning with the strenuous Lamahatta trek . We found the trek to be tough and took quite a few breaks to finish it without breaking down.
The trek ended at Mamta Park, a nice little place developed and maintained by the state government right beside the highway.
In the evening, after a sumptuous lunch, we moved on for a nice walk between the Takdah tea estate. The stray dogs kept playing around our legs and the sun was setting. The whole scene straight out of an Enid Blyton novel was extremely soothing.
The walk up the estate lead to a vast open space where once a bungalow stood. The local folklore says it was burnt down during one of the village riots. What remains now is just a tribute to the once majestic house.
Do try the locally brewed wheat beer here with your dinner. I promise, you will not be disappointed!
Destination 2: Okhrey, Sikkim
Okhrey Village is unique for the reason of settlement of the ethnic tribal community “Sherpas”.The Word Sherpa is derived from the two Tibetan words ‘Shar’ and ‘Pa’ which together means people belonging to the eastern part of Tibet.
Accommodation: Magnolia Homestay, this place is not recommended by us. It was crammed and not worth staying even for the lovely bloomed flowers and all the birds nearby.
Things to do: A nice 5km hike up till a small accommodation in the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. Albeit picturesque, there is no electricity in these rooms and hence, a stay over is suggested only for the real adventurous folks. Needless to say, we walked 10 km up and down along a beautifully paved path shaded by a diverse variety of rhododendrons.
Post the walk in the sanctuary, we stopped at a couple of monasteries where the monks seemed more interested in playing football! Our driver explained to us that people here are ardent followers of the game and pointed us to the Manchester United and Real Madrid flags hanging out from almost every car and house on our way back.
Our final stop at the workshop set up by the Sikkim Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms made my day. For Rs. 100 a day, these women learn a skill and the local arts and crafts are kept alive. Sikkim is known for its carpet weaving technique and it was quite refreshing to see the handlooms at work to create such exquisite pieces.
Destination 3: Kaluk, Sikkim
Located in the foothills of the Himalyas, Kaluk is an idyllic hamlet with abundant natural beauty. You can have a clear view of the entire Kanchenjunga range while you are here.
Accommodation: Ghonday Village Resort. A great little place with only 5-6 village women as help. They have maintained good hotel standards and provided us with mouth-watering home-cooked meals at all times.
Things to do: More treks, more views and more monasteries. But look at what I found when I crossed a school on my walk!
Destination 4: Gangtok, Sikkim
A perfect break after 5 days in the village with nature; Gangtok fulfills all of our city needs with pubs and some great restaurants with scintillating ambience.
Accommodation: Shire Guesthouse which is only a steep 10 min walk down from the center of M.G. Road. Guarantee of plenty of fun nights.
Things to do: We did plenty. Needless to say we recommend the following restaurants first.
1. Cafe fiction: A quiet little place with Rachna bookstores upstairs. I think what makes this charming is the owner, Mr. Raman who proudly shows and proclaims his crazy love for reading. Many authors also come visit this place to sign their books and a lot of events are held here.
2. Coffee Shop: Loved the ambience and the food. We sat there for a good two hours and didn’t even realize how time flew by. With a good view of the M.G Road, I think our evening was very well spent.
3. Pub 25: Our last crazy night at Pub 25. Beautifully crafted special drinks for the day with deliciously mouth-watering food. (It was probably the alcohol, now that I think about it), but we recommend a visit there for dinner while you are at Gangtok.
One entire day can be dedicated to Nathula Pass and Changu lake, though I feel ‘tourists’ have just destroyed the entire artistry of the place. I did feel great when we shook hands with the Chinese border guards though! In the evenings, you can go to the Rumtek monastery (the old and the new one). We were lucky enough to catch the last day festivities and rituals of Saga Dawa celebrations.
We did manage to stop on route at the Buddha park of Ravangla, a place which was not in our itinerary but a gem that our driver pointed us to.
Another must visit is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. Though it is a very small place, I learnt quite a bit about the Lord Buddha and Sikkim. For shopping of local arts and crafts, the Directorate of Handlooms and Handicrafts is a must visit. With a great variety of items to source and a small workshop, you are bound to learn more about Sikkim’s culture here there than any other place in Gangtok.
All in all, the trip was beautifully crafted to our needs and we loved every day of it!